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Summer is on right on our heels and it’s a bittersweet time of year. School is about to break (some parts of the country already have) for summer vacation and that means parents get some time off from all of the school year forms and expenses. However, it’s also the time of year when kids lounge around the crib and vegetate, forgetting everything they’ve learned the entire school year.

To remedy what’s often called “the summer slide” luckily, there are many options to choose from. Even better, these instruments that can  help kids maintain their mental agility fit right into the fun-filled summer days and will keep their interest. Here are a few that will engage your young ones while they take a break from the daily academic grind.

Gravitrax

Price: $59.99 (starter set)

As the name would suggest, Gravitrax operates on the law of gravity to work. In addition to showing kids how physics works in action, it sparks imagination in a fun way as they can create their own marble roller coasters.

There’s a free downloadable app where you create tracks to test before building everything out. On the Android side, if you’ve got a virtual reality headset, the app allows you to ride the track from the marble’s perspective. What I love the most about Gravitrax is that it doesn’t do everything on its own and it gives kids a sense of satisfaction from seeing their own creations come alive.

Kidomi

Price: $4.99 per month plus free app

The new trend in children’s mobile apps is subscription-based programming. While YouTube remains the most used platform, folks with more higher-end content like Disney and Nickelodeon are pooling their shows and movies into exclusive, app-only services. Kidomi has been around for a few years but hasn’t gotten as much fanfare so not too many people are up on it. Made for preschoolers, Kidomi provides access to child-friendly shows and activities from reputable companies like Hasbro, Crayola and Sago. They also add new content weekly to keep kids from getting bored. Kidomi requires a $5 a month subscription and has a free 7-day trial period to see if your child digs it.

Rise of the Black Panther

Price: $3.99 for digital version

While we all wait for our Wakandan citizenship to be approved, there are comics out right now that further explain the origins and deep politics of Marvel’s Black utopia. Comic book writer and pop culture commentator Evan Narcisse put his pen to the “Rise of the Black Panther” series to give us some more perspective and background on the mysterious African country.

Evan, a father himself, used his insights as a guide to promote the strength and intelligence that he wants to encourage in his child. “Rise of the Black Panther” is a perfect read for pre-teens and older to wrap their heads around the concepts of leadership while installing a sense of pride from the brilliant characters we’ve come to love from the film.

PC Building Simulator

Price: $19.99

It may sound like a massive bore, but trust me when I say that the PC Building Simulator video game is one of the most fun titles I’ve played in a long time. The gist is that you’ve inherited a failing computer repair shop and your job is to turn it around into a profitable business. In the process, players get to learn how to build and test computers.

At the same time, they get a fundamental lesson in running a business. You determine which repair jobs to take on that will help the shop make money and encourage repeat customers. Since its release only a few months ago, PC Building Simulator has gained the interest of schools with computer science programs because of its real world application. It only costs $20 but the knowledge gained from the game is worth so much more.

 

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Larry Hester is a Brooklyn-born writer who’s written for Vibe, BET.com, The Source, Complex and more. He now resides in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and son. He welcomes any parenting advice or encouragement. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter @almostcooldad.

 

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